Saturday, August 18, 2007

Waiting for the Netflix Killer

Someone's got to come along and do Netflix better than Netflix. Seriously, Internet DVD rental is such awesome idea, but these guys are mucking it up.

I outlined some of my problems with Netflix in this post from May. Basically, if you rent from them too much, and your account ceases to make a satisfactory profit for them, they begin to tinker with your queue, sending movies that you want to other, less obsessive users first or even holding back on sending your new rentals for a day. The site's Terms of Service make note of these tactics (because of a lawsuit), but it's one of those fine-print jobs that no one really looks into.

So that's annoying, but it's still worth having Netflix because of the convenience and the depth of their library. (They always have something around that I want to watch.) In fact, I'm busy enough between Mahalo and writing that I've been watching fewer movies, and I've noticed lately that I tend get movies from the top of my queue rather than 1/3 of the way down. So at least they've made their Fuck Over Cineastes System (or FOCS) self-correcting.

But this week, the Red Envelope's really starting to try my patience. Kenneth Branagh's 4-hour full-text version of Hamlet just came out on DVD on Tuesday, and I haven't seen it in years. (Laser Blazer had a laserdisc version, but I never got around to watching it.) So I made sure to keep it at the very top of my queue, hoping to get it quickly. And I did...but only Disc 1, which is the first 2.5 hours of the movie.

Now, I know that Netflix sleeves usually hold just one disc, and that they divide up 2-disc special editions into two rentals. (Like, you'd get the film first, then the special features later if you wanted them...I usually don't bother...)

But I had no idea they would go so far as to do this with movies divided between two discs. That is completely asinine. When I rent a film, I feel it's safe to say that I'm renting that entire film, not the portion that fits on a standard single DVD. (You could make the case that mini-series, placed on 3 or 4 discs, would count as separate rentals. But one long movie?)

There's two problems here:

(1) Sending customers one half of a movie at a time is a ridiculously stingy, bullshit practice that's going to do nothing but engender mistrust and derision from the general public. Considering that Netflix turnover is about 4 days even if you watch the film as soon as it arrives in the mail, they're basically asking me to watch a single movie spread out over a week.

and

(2) Netflix felt no need to inform me in advance that they planned to split up my rental this way, giving me no opportunity to return two films in anticipation of watching Hamlet all at once.

Failing to correct #1, they should really do something about #2. I wrote them a very nice e-mail saying so, as a matter of fact...LAST WEEK, and they have thus far felt no need to respond.

So this is why I'm thinking that someone should figure out how to do Netflix better than Netflix. I don't know what that way is...but there has to be a way, right? Charge a bit more, but guarantee you'll get the movie you want? They just cut my rates by a dollar, which is nice and all, but I'd rather they keep that dollar and improve their service. I'd probably give them a few more dollars a month, actually, if it would guarantee that I'd have the three movies (COMPLETE movies, preferably) I want at any given time.

And also, hire a customer service department that can actually deal with customer service issues in a semi-timely fashion. Firing some of the developers and designers they've obviously hired to turn their site into yet another redundant social network no one wants to bother with would be a good place to start. Why can't the movie rental site just rent goddamn fucking movies? Why does it have to be Facebook Films?

You're a video rental service. I don't want complaints about the films you've sent me dealt with two weeks later. I clearly wanted to watch this movie now. That's why I have ordered it from you in advance. Grrr...

1 comment:

Sharkbait said...

It's true. It's all true.
(I just cancelled my Netflix last week)